Bishop Conlon March 07

Bishop Conlon's letter concerning Steubenville Catholic Schools

 

February 21, 2007

Ash Wednesday

 

Dear Friends in Christ,

 

This letter is addressed to the Catholics in Steubenville, Mingo Junction, Richmond, Toronto, Wintersville and the neighboring areas of Jefferson County.  It concerns the plans that have been made for our Catholic schools.  These plans hold much promise for Catholic education in our area.

 

As you know, the Steubenville Task Force was charged almost four years ago to formulate plans to strengthen the life of the Church in the City of Steubenville.  The school portion of that planning process was delayed because the parishes in Wintersville and Richmond were not represented on the task force and because of the possibility of including the schools in Mingo Junction and Toronto in the planning.  (St. Agnes, St. Francis and St. Joseph parishes ultimately decided to continue operating their schools apart from any plans for the elementary schools in Steubenville.)  

 

Subsequently an Education Task Force was set up to establish plans for the elementary schools in Steubenville, taking into account the restructuring of the parishes in Steubenville.  This task force worked for over a year and developed a proposal, which was presented in public meetings last fall.  I followed up with two public “listening sessions”.  I am very grateful for the hard work of the task force and for the comments others have made. 

 

The plan developed by the Education Task Force calls for closing all three elementary schools in Steubenville and creating one elementary school for pre-school through grade 6 school and one junior high school for grades 7 and 8.  The restructuring will take effect on July 1, 2008.

 

The elementary school will operate on two campuses, the current Aquinas and Holy Rosary facilities, but will have one principal and vice-principal, identical programs and a new, common name.  Enrollment will be “open”, that is, parents will be free to choose either campus.  The junior high will be a “school within a school” in a wing of Catholic Central High School.  It will have a name distinct from Catholic Central High School and a vice-principal responsible for its day-to-day operation.  The high school, junior high school and elementary school will each have its own Local Educational Advisory Committee. 

 

The implementation of the plan will require many detailed decisions and the cooperation of administrators, teachers, Local Educational Advisory Committees and parents.  It will take time to do it well, so patience is also imperative. 

 

The implementation process will be overseen by the two Pastoral Administrators who have been chosen by the pastors of the parishes responsible for the schools.  Monsignor Jerry Calovini is already the Pastoral Administrator of CCHS and will also be responsible for the junior high school when it opens in 2008.  Father Richard Tuttle will be the Pastoral Administrator for the elementary school when it opens in 2008.  (The current Pastoral Administrators and LEACs for the three elementary schools will continue in their roles until then.)  Dr. Peter Chila, Superintendent of Schools, will be available as a valuable resource.

 

Of course, bringing students and staff from three elementary schools together in a single elementary and junior high school will be challenging.  All three of the current schools-- All Saints, Aquinas and Holy Rosary--are excellent schools.  Each has a distinct “personality” and strengths.  Because we are Catholic, which means universal, the blending of the schools will necessitate the incorporation of the best of the three schools and the welcoming of all students, regardless of economic status, race, academic ability and other characteristics.  As with anything done in the name of Jesus Christ, love must be the overarching attitude.

 

The restructuring is an excellent opportunity to strengthen and deepen the religious purpose of the schools, from pre-school through high school.  God’s grace enables us to make the sacrifices that make Catholic education possible.  God’s grace must flow through everything that happens in our schools (as well as at home), so that our children are formed as holy disciples of Christ.

 

The restructuring also provides an opportunity to invite all Catholic parents to choose Catholic schools for their children.  Not only is Catholic education an immense gift to young people, increased enrollment in our schools benefits the common good.  For almost 200 years, Catholic schools have been held out as the norm for the schooling of Catholic children in the United States.  Only they have the potential for a comprehensive formation in the Catholic Christian faith and way of life, within a communal setting.

 

I offer my enthusiastic support for the plans that have been made for the schools in Steubenville and will work to help them succeed.  As a pastor, I consider Catholic schools to be a very serious responsibility and a high priority.  Every parent, teacher, administrator, alumnus, pastor and parishioner, who helps make Catholic education possible in this part of the Diocese of Steubenville, has my respect and admiration. 

 

Since the plans reflect changing demographic realities, they may seem to represent a reduction.  I prefer to see the plans as a wonderful opportunity to use our resources wisely and to cooperate with the Holy Spirit in providing the best possible Catholic education in our community.  So, let’s go forward in peace and joy, with Mary, the Mother of Christ and the Mother of the Church, as our model.

 

 

Most Reverend R. Daniel Conlon

Bishop of Steubenville